The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


Leave a comment

Looking up!

On August 6th as everyone probably knows, Jamaica celebrated 50 years of Independence.  Our athletes achieved more at the 2012 London Olympics than we dreamed possible.

Each medal ceremony where our flags rose was moving.  We were deeply proud to stand and sing the National Anthem with Jamaicans everywhere.  The colours mean:

Hardships there are but the land is green, and the sun shineth – gold.

 

Have Olympics = must knit!  I didn’t take part in the Ravellenics but worked on my Redhook Tunic by Jared Flood.  It now has a complete body, most of a shawl collar, and sleeves-in-progress.  Diane’s colours are just beautiful, and are lining up very nicely.

This is from my surprise Gnome Acres gift certificate!  Just copying the pic makes me smile.  A TKK reader and friend who I first met in the Knit me Happy virtual knit nights really cheered me up, and I can’t thank her enough.  Deb’s a new spinner (yay!), and as you can see is super-awesome with great taste in yarnies!

So, I’ve started listening to a few podcasts, and Knit me Happy is one of them that I really try to stay with good mood or bad.  It’s hosted by Rachel aka TinyGeekCrafter, and the group has really great folks.  Rachel recently lost one of her much-loved cats, Munchkin, after his short illness.  He loved to co-host with flair, and I know all of us listeners will miss him and the tail flashes.

This is a new-to-the-wall acrylic on canvas that my cousin painted for us.  Stretching and hanging it has transformed the living room, and I love it!  If you’d like to contact the artist about her work, you can email me at irieknit at gmail dot com.

Yep – if I am feeling better then spinning has something to do with it!  This is Jacob wool – dyed by Chelsea.  The double entendre in the picture title?  Intended;)

Entirely of its own volition, Lulu’s llama fiber came home with me from this June’s Ontario Handspinning Seminar.  Soft, basically clean and without guard hairs as far as I can tell.

Both samples were flick-carded from the raw Llama and spun on spindles.  The one with less twist (right) is much nicer.

Last week, I had a few free hours and decided to give two handfuls a quick wash.  As her owner promised, she has a flare of white in the blanket!  Getting my hands into this is mood-enhancing as well.

Melvin’s idea of keeping me company.  He’s not letting me turf that old office chair either.

The rough times aren’t behind me but I’m lucky to have special people around me who care, and good things happening at my hands.

Have a great weekend, friends!


Leave a comment

Logwood Heart, an experiment

I am speaking about Haematoxylum campechianum.  Logwood is a natural dye that is typically sold as dried chips of the heartwood.  It was introduced for cultivation in Caribbean colonies, and continued to be exported even through the sugar hey-day.

 

Who do you think you are?  Logwood Heart?

It’s from my favourite poem, Omeros by Derek Walcott.  Hector, a St. Lucian “madman eaten with envy” rages after Achille.  His cutlass speaking as much as he did:

Moi j’a dire – ‘ous pas prêter un rien. ‘Ous ni shallope, ‘ous ni seine, ‘ous croire ‘ous ni choeur campêche?

I told you, borrow nothing of mine.  You have a canoe, and a net.  Who you think you are?  Logwood Heart?

Omeros, Chapter 3, I.

 My Dad got me this bag of Jamaican logwood about a year ago.  Having found this article I learned it was still exported from the island as dyestuff up until the early 1940s.

Round the First

At the end of May, 2011, I took my 53g of shaved and chipped Jamaican logwood and dove into the hand-spun stash.  This 464 yds of local organic Romney that I spun on my Spinolution Mach 2 a.k.a. Earl came out to play.

For this 278g of fibre, I decided to add in 50g of commercial Logwood chips that I had on hand.  The logic seems fuzzy now but I was aiming for purple, and wanted to “save” the precious stuff from home.

My method was to pre-mordant the yarn (25% alum; 6% cream of tartar).  I put all the logwood plus some Lignum Vitae – on advice from back home – in a stocking.  That went into the dyepot for a cold water soak overnight.  Then I simmered the yarn in the pot for 1 hour, and let the bath cool.  I didn’t remove the stocking.

It worked!  I was (and still am) so excited about this deep, dark purple of natural dyed wonder.

 

Round the Second

I know a good thing when I see it, so the dye pot went straight to the basement.  You know, for later use.  N had a few qualms along the way but he is a scientist and saw I was making An Experiment.  Scientists appreciate experiments.  Mold and all.

In late November, 2011, I got the urge to dye purple again.  This time it was my hand-spun sock yarn.

Mold was the least of my worries.  The blobs of inky gunk showed up as soon as the yarn went in.  I kept calm, and rinsed in the sink.  Thankfully, the blobs agreed to slide right off.  As soon as the colour got mauvey, I pulled the skeins out.  There’s no point in tempting fate now is there?

My first me-spun; me-dyed sock yarn looks a little like this:

Fibre:  154g of kid mohair/ merino/ alpaca sock yarn roving from The Fibre Garden.

Wheel:  Watson Martha in double drive, and spun on the smaller whorl.

Plied wraps per inch:  16 (sport-weight).

Yardage:  363.

Why tell you all of this now?

It’s a fair question.  The answer is that I have been knitting my first pair of me-spun; me-dyed socks.  And I love them very much.

The pattern is Clara Parkes’ Stepping Stones from The Knitter’s Book of Socks that N gave me last Christmas.  I missed the part where she gives a variation on the stitch pattern for the foot.

My little modification was to just twine knit the heel flap.  Her instructions have you almost there anyway, and I do love to twine.

 

More inspiration

This is my handspun, naturally dyed and backstrap loom woven bag from The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, Peru.

A quiet reminder that I am a young grasshopper in this world rich with textile traditions.


Leave a comment

Easter cheer

Happy Easter!

The long weekend got off on the right foot with these 2 deliveries from N’s Mum.  There I was spring cleaning in the basement Thursday afternoon when the doorbell rang.

The lilies were closed until this morning.  Perfect timing!  Also brightening the holiday,

It’s on the kitchen table until I plant it out with the other hydrangea from Easters past.  My contribution to the family dinner was this Smartie-festooned from-scratch cake.

It’s the Joy of Cooking Devil’s Food Cockaigne, and fit my uncle’s bill for 100% chocolate.  The dinner was wonderful – Jamaican baked ham, plantain, rice & pigeon peas all had their places at the table, and it was just plain good to be with family this time of year.

In between posts, I’ve been knitting and listening to the Hunger Games books.  This FO is going straight to England, tomorrow, and is for baby cuz, Murray.

It’s a stretchy twine-knit number for his new home, Montreal.  I was inspired by Tiny Geek Crafter‘s KAL for endometriosis awareness this month.

Love that twine knitting!  Sooo warm & stretchy.  The yarns are Rowan Pure Wool DK for the yellow, and the lighter Rowan Pure Wool 4-ply in black.

Using the twine technique evened out the yarns.  My idea was based on the Blind Melon bee girl music video from back in the day.  These are the artsy parents, so they should be fine with a quirky hat for Mur-man.

Right at the end of January, I started the Beach House Pullover pattern by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.  After a couple of weeks, I stalled here.

I just needed the right mood for these all-over horseshoe cables.  What mood is that?  The kind that comes after a series of tests and a new diagnosis…   With audio books and podcasts, I am now mid-way through the front & the back is done.

In other words:  I rediscovered soothing repetition.  The calming effect of Cascade 220 yarn is not to be discounted either.

I do have a post to write for spinning exploits but want to share my first skein from the antique flax wheel with you.  Amazingly bouncy lace from a double-drive system!

It’s 369 yds of 2-ply yarn.  One ply is BFL, and the other is a BFL/silk blend.  Handspinning your own gives you these choices!


Leave a comment

Out of Jamaica, Part I

The island was lush & beautiful when we were home.  In the short week we stayed in Kingston, visited Port Royal for Gloria’s fried fish, and went to St. Ann for Cuz’s wedding.

In Kingston, we caught the tail-end of the rains:

These old friends in the backyard were a sight for sore eyes.  Mahogany in their own little canopy:

The Lignum Vitae (tree of life) was just coming out of bloom.

And underneath it all, some life.

Port Royal charmed even the King of Snark, a 20-something cousin from the States who was with us.  Parking lot view at the Port Royal police station – left:

And swinging right is the Kingston harbour view:

Since people were getting along, and spirits were high we took King of Snark along to Fort Charles, which got mangled in the 1692 earthquake.  It totally delayed our trip down to the country but there was a rare pause on the snark.  Canons abound, it is a fort:

Well placed sea anchor.  Just as big as I remembered!

Up the ramp, and inside the Fort:

From which, you see:

School trip!  They arrived just as we were heading down to the Giddy House.

Spin around, the Giddy House is sea-ward.

The Giddy House is the old Artillery Store that partially sank in the 1692 earthquake.  Everyone feels giddy walking in there.  Everyone.

An entire Armory went under.

More remnants:

There was a lot of climbing and running on the gun.  Those pics look a little rude, and are being withheld.

And on our way back to Kingston, a Port Royal landmark:

Kingston may not be for everyone but it’s home for me.


2 Comments

Shawls are for tomboys too

Spending 6 days home in Jamaica for my Toronto cousin’s wedding was every-minute-amazing.  A&W had a sea-side wedding in Discovery Bay.  We sandwiched this ‘country trip’ by staying with my parents in Kingston.

In my carry-on was the just, just finished lace shawl – Oslo Walk by Susanna IC (publisher pics here).  Lace novice that I am, this was a huge 3-week challenge.  What possessed me?  Well, having to re-wear a dress for the wedding is what.  Also, thanks to the best sort of encouragement from T, my spinning angel lace expert, I happened to have matching indigo lace-weight yarn stashed, together with Japanese seed beads & even a small crochet hook.  To reconstruct the scene (plans fail, what can I say…):

Here I am posing with the intended dress for the maker of my intended necklace:

And this is the finished shawl blocking the eve of our flight home:

And close-up for the detail:

The beads are Tojo #6, and the yarn is 1 skein of Fantastic Knitting’s Zephyr Lace-weight in Indigo.

At the top left of this pic you can see where one of my eyelet lines veers off.  To show that I am a hapless lace knitter who was under a deadline.  This shawl, now called Blue Lagoon, is easily the most delicate thing that I own.

The first rows of the pattern were difficult – I was learning how to knit in beads for what felt like the greatest expanse of knitting.  Mistakes were made.  All over the place but I stuck with it for the idea of bringing it to this wedding was strong with me.

This best laid plan had a hitch.  Literally.  Our hotel was 40 mins away from this 4:00 p.m. wedding, and I had been swimming in the sea just hours before.  So, there was getting ready to be done.  As DH was doing up the side zipper for me, it burst.  Burst, I tell you.  At the ribs.  Instant panic & cursing followed by tears.  Would the thing budge?!  No!

Eventually I got the thing to run again but the zip’s teeth were mangled [DH wants to say he didn’t cause it… yea].  Since yours truly was also a Reader in said wedding, this was a calamity.  Luckily another cousin, C, had a dress to loan me.  The shawl still worked with the turquoise but not the necklace.  Except C wears a size large & I wear – well, I wear a small… With help from C, and bossing from the bride’s Mom, I pulled myself together.  The bride had everyone waiting a long while due to some serious hair issue.  Not what I planned but here is Blue Lagoon as I wore it:

In a more relaxed mood the following day at Shaw Park Beach Hotel:

We took many other trip pictures – soon come with those!

Happy Friday!


3 Comments

Catching up

Life got out of hand.  Evidence of which is standing in our living room.  A tree.  Neckid as it grew in the ground.  The Christmas tree that wasn’t.  Honestly, I met every other holiday expectation – up to & including baking stints – and tried my very best.  Good thing Mom was too tired herself to really notice the lack of ornamentation.  Let’s just say we kept it simple & leave it at that…

Happy New Year!

Just because I fell off the face of the blog doesn’t mean that I was an idle working stiff.  Here’s a blast of what’s been keeping me sane this past little while.  In no particular order because it’s all in heavy rotation anyways…

Best surprise ever was finding this spinning angel on my doorstep on a cold Saturday morning.  A gift from my friend T, and she came in her own box:

T made the drop spindle with some sequins, and painted it with purple nail polish! She unwound the gold lace yarn, which apparently was a beast.  Love, love, love.  And yes, my new Ravatar.

T’s other gift has been to encourage me in the general direction of her special talent with lace knitting.  A large rectangle stole in spider net from Jane Sowerby’s Victorian Lace Today is quietly in progress.  Amazon linky.  If you don’t like empowering the likes of Amazon, here’s a pic of my copy:

This is not just a slightly ’80s looking pattern book.  No.  This book goes to great lengths to explain lace construction and knitting methods.  Helps if you weren’t born knowing 7 cast-ons suitable for lace.  Also helps if negotiating borders around corners isn’t yet another of your innate skills.

In other knitting we have a far less challenging Hap Shawl.  The pattern is Hansel by Gudrun Johnston a.k.a. the Shetland Trader.

The main yarn is my Philosopher’s Wool worsted 2-ply.  The body is acres upon acres of garter stitch.  I broke up the tedium by switching to Continental (left-handed) knitting.  Even so it was a pain & a ½ to get that diamond done.  Then it was the fun part – stash busting!

Again with the everlasting knitting.  And if I thought that taught me patience, well.  How about a garter edging?

That baby only kills 8 stitches every repeat.

More in keeping with instant gratification… a hat.  DH looks dashing in this quick knit, and loves it to boot.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed he’d pick Sublime Yarns Angora Merino for his hat!  Held double for Clara Parkes’ Hill Country Hat.  I have the book but here’s a free PDF version from Knitter’s Review.

One of my aims for 2010 was to knit hand-spun socks.  Cast on for these on December 30th!

The pattern is Lemon Leaves from Cat Bordhi’s (tortuously titled) Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters.  The yarn is a 3-ply super-wash BFL hand-dyed by Turtle Purl in Québec.  The colours are amazing, and although I don’t like spinning super-wash, it knits up beautifully.  However.  Am short on yardage!

My new spindles in order of acquisition:

She’s an antique French spindle that I got in a Ravelry de-stash.  See the tip?  It looks broken but still spins beautifully.

Easily the most portable spindle I own.  She likes my Blue Mountain coffee bag.  I spin suspended but have to pay attention to her spin-time lest there be droppage.  A surprising number of non-spinners love to watch me spin on her.  Happy to oblige!

The bottom of the French is too worn for good supported spindling, so what did I do?  Got a Russian!  My less-than-stellar attempts:

It’s a mahogany Tom Forrester.  Do you see how many fibres I broke out in trying to spin on this?!?  Here’s inspiration number one for sucking less:

Sweet, sweet vicuña.  Hand-processed by Tabi at Sericin Woolworks, and worth every cent!  Only the finest, rarest camelid fibre known to man…  Until then I am a mere grasshopper with the Russian spindle.

Latest addition is an Ethan Jacob lace spindle by Greensleeves.  Another de-stash win!  It’s 14g of sleek cochin & lacewood.

They weren’t kidding when they said this is a primo lace spindle.  Insanely good, man.  Helps me not to feel like a total ass on the Russian.

Yes, I make yarn with all the tools & enthusiasm.  Here’s a small sampling… On my Wee Peggy wheel is some Finnish Landrace (the sweater project):

Previously on my Canadian Production Wheel was this gift to its previous owner – Shetland top, 2-ply:

Now on the CPW is Corriedale hand-dyed by Ontario fibre artist KerrySpins:

There’s much more in production but this is a mighty long post already!

Walk good!

 


Leave a comment

Bittersweet trip of the year!

May has been nothing if not eventful!  Just so I can post a bunch of pictures, I’ll fast-forward to my 9-day trip to Jamaica.  It was a much-needed break but was nearly derailed by the explosive situation in Kingston.

There I was having a grand ol’ time in Negril with Dad when we saw the news… to everyone’s horror the Hannah Town police station was engulfed in flame.  Arson by molotov.  It was the Labour Day weekend.  Clearly the stand-off in Tivoli was at a head, so we headed back to Kingston while the heading back was good… It’s entirely possible to be road-blocked out of Kingston.

Thankfully, the situation did not tip over.  Mostly I think because civil society recognized the danger, and came together in support of the security forces’ operation to restore order.  It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pleasant.  Life was slowly returning to normal when I left but the city is tense.  People were stocking-up like a hurricane was about to hit.  Businesses were open but closing early.  Soldiers and heavily armed police were on the roads.  All told it was a bittersweet trip.

Out of sheer luck I caught Rootz Underground playing at the Red Bones Blues Cafe in Kingston… these guys have a full touring schedule!

Sorry for the poor pic quality… my little Canon wasn’t up to it…

Here are Jeff & Colin rocking out!  The band gave an amazing set & encore for the crowd!

We stopped at Bamboo Walk on our way down to Negril… one of my favourite spots on the island!

Looking up:

My no. 1 restaurant recommendation in Negril is for:

Go in lobster season & you won’t be disappointed!  Plus, the sunsets are to die for:

The view from my room wasn’t too shoddy either:

That’s one magnificent cottonwood tree, and there are many more on property.  Here’s the same view, looking left:

Spindling this gorgeous roving by the sea was divine.  It’s a 100% Rambouillet braid from Dyed in the Wool Handmade that I got at the Knitter’s Frolic in Toronto:

I’m spinning singles in tandem on the Ray Turkish spindle shown there, and my Kundert.  Of course it wasn’t all spindling… had to swim too…

This cove was so much fun to explore – so much coral down there!

Now that the hotel is closed, we practically had the place to ourselves.  Just us & the dude who owned those white t-shirts!  This is the cave on the far side of the cove:

Two upsides of a quiet property – a) many shells for the taking; and b) “clothing optional” beach was mine for the enjoying:

I was trying not to look left over at the Hedonism II sunbathers…  The obligatory hibiscus pic (if you are me):

So happy to see all of the Poinciana trees in full bloom as we drove along the country roads:

It was lovely but I stayed close to the radio/ internet when we got back to town.  The gallivanting was officially over, and I didn’t get to see some key friends…  I’m very glad I was there (turmoil or no), and am now back feeling rested & somehow focused.